A Farewell to Na-Na: When It's Time to Wean

Written by guest blogger, Jessica Lang Kosa

My youngest is weaning. Most people assume she has long since stopped nursing, since she goes to preschool, eats everything, and has sleepovers with the grandparents.   She still usually nurses at bedtime, but sometimes forgets to ask.  Occasionally she'll drift off, and then bolt up, announcing "bedtime nana!"  She seems to be on roughly the same timetable as her older brother and sister, so I suspect she'll forget more and more often, and be weaned altogether in a few months.

Mostly, I'll be glad. My milk supply is now very low, so nursing can feel annoying sometimes. And in our household, weaning is a right of passage marked by a family celebration…. with balloons and favorite foods.  It's kind of her first graduation party.

Like all my kids' milestones, it will also be bittersweet.  I will miss the potent mothering tool that toddler nursing has been, and I will miss this part of her life.

I'll miss the magic ability to calm an overtired kiddo and stop a tantrum; from meltdown to melting-in-my-lap with the flip of a breast.

I’ll miss the intense physicality of the nursing connection, and the way it relaxes both of us.  Coming home from work used to trigger a demand of “nana on couch!” I’d sit right down on the sofa to nurse her, reconnecting first thing, rather than getting swept into the flurry of household activity.

I’ll miss nana-as-medicine.  'Tis the season for colds and bugs.  Preschool germs have been so much more manageable since I could nurse her through them when she didn't feel like eating or drinking.

I won't particularly miss some of the boundary negotiations, but I'm glad we had them. Learning as a toddler that it’s not OK to strip-search mommy is a great introduction to personal space.  It's been a opportunity to teach that critical concept: other people, even mommy, have feelings.  Someday, when she's a young woman in a relationship, I hope her subconscious will remember my gentle limit-setting and guide her towards taking care of herself while loving someone else.

Since she's my third, I know how fast they grow up.  At preschool, she has friends her own age and a cubby and art projects with her name on them.  She helps make her own lunch, and proudly packs it in her backpack. As she discovers the outside world, with all its glory and its hazards, I will cheer her on, but miss the simplicity of her time as a baby.  She’s a long way from the tiny infant I used to tote around with me, but nursing allowed me to see and feed the baby inside her.  Watching her outgrow nursing in her own time has been a privilege.  Weaning has been a microcosm of holding on while letting go.

Jessica Lang Kosa is an IBCLC, providing in-home lactation consulting for families in Greater Boston, and breastfeeding education for professionals around New England.  

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